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It may not be glamorous but, unpretentious Pazin is called the "heart of Istria" as much for its geographic location in Istria's centre as its administrative importance. (See Pazin on a map of Istria)
Pazin is the administrative capital of Istria but it retains a pleasant, laid-back, small-town atmosphere. It's a good choice for a base while you visit other towns in the Istrian interior such as Motovun or Groznjan and it also provides a calm escape from the crowded Istrian coast in the summer.
The main attraction of Pazin is the famous "Pazin Chasm" a gigantic natural pit whose sheer rocks loom mysteriously over the Pazincica river 130m below. The chasm was made famous by Jules Verne who set the story of Mathias Sandorf in the apparently bottomless cave.
Also worth a visit is Pazin Castle (Kastel) the largest and best preserved medieval fort in Istria. It now houses the Ethnographic Museum of Istria and the City Museum. On the ground floor is a bell collection amassed from Istrian churches and the ethnographic collection gives a good overview of Istrian life.
The best time to visit Pazin is during the Days of Jules Verne, the third week of June when the streets are filled with tributes to the writer who made Pazin famous. There are re-enactments of Mathias Sandorf's adventure and other fun events.
Otherwise, try to come to Pazin the first Tuesday of the month for the Town Fair. It's a good opportunity to shop for food and artisanal items that come from the four corners of Istria.
One reason why Pazin makes such a great base is that there are buses, trains and roads connecting the town with nearly every Istrian destination. There are trains to Zagreb, Pula, Buzet and Ljubljana and buses to Pula, Rovinj, Porec, Motovun and other destinations. Be aware that buses and trains are dramatically less frequent on weekends. See more on getting around Croatia by bus and by train. By car, Pazin is less than an hour away from most coastal towns.
The only hotel within Pazin is the new and beautiful four-star Resort Cize with a swimming pool. Most of the private accommodation is in the villages and countryside surrounding Pazin and provides excellent value for money. A car is necessary though as public transport is nearly non-existent. Not far from town in rural Grascice is the Villas Poli Svetega Antona. These are restored medieval houses that together form most of Grascice village. It makes a nice, relaxing holiday.
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